unboxed marketing

group therapy for marketers and business owners

don’t forget the manipulators

Posted by Steve Buchholz on April 5, 2009

most marketing is manipulative, but that's a losing proposition as markets change

most marketing is manipulative, but that's a losing proposition as markets change

I recently commented on a Darren Rose post over at ProBlogger where Darren wrote that most marketing is manipulative. Here’s what I said in response:

Darren: You write that marketing tends to try to manipulate. I don’t think that’s correct. That certainly was true in the past, during the golden age of mass markets and mass advertising. But those days are gone.

The inter-connectedness of markets has (appropriately) drive a stake through the heart of that system. Poor marketing continues to embrace those failing strategies, and those attempts are–as you say–manipulative.

However, more and more marketers have seen the light, and are trying to do things better. We’re trying to create products for people rather than finding people for our products. And we’re trying to connect with customers in meaningful, honest ways.

That’s not manipulative at all. And it’s the future of marketing success.

I’m having second thoughts about this. I stand by my thoughts about the future of marketing and the need to erase all manipulation from the craft. However, I think I’m wrong about most current marketing not being manipulative.

Spend a bit of time watching TV commercials (use your DVR to fast-forward through the show), and it’s hard to disagree with Darren. Almost every commercial is full of crap. During one half-hour show on FitTV, I saw obviously manipulative commercials for:

  • Two competing amazing weight-loss drugs
  • A body-cleansing product that remove all impurities from your system
  • A product that will keep even the cheapest razors sharp forever
  • An exercise machine that makes it easy to lose weight.

All those spots are attacking your emotions and your desire to be a better person, but they clearly fall into the too-good-to-be-true category. And for someone vulnerable–for whatever reason–can easily be taken in. That’s not to say the products don’t work; it’s just that the promotional approach is meant to manipulate.

I predict this advertising approach will stop working. Consumers have so much access to information and peer reviews, they can know everything about every product and service you offer. As a result, businesses will need to increase the level of honesty.

Customers will find you out if you don’t.


2 Responses to “don’t forget the manipulators”

  1. Linda said

    I would agree that the old ways of manipulative marketing should go away. I also think that a new model is/has already developed, in that people do have so many ways of finding what they want without using traditional marketing sources. But not all marketing is done via media. The personal phone calls, emails and physical visits are also marketing and these methods are changing. But just making calls without knowledge of their needs are a waste of their and your time. Networking, understanding the customers’ needs and anticipating that need are all valuable methods, too. It may take more time and research but I maintain it is worth it.

    • Hello, Linda. Good to hear from you.

      However you engage in marketing these days, it’s all about creating meaningful relationships and finding ways to meet the needs of our customers. Do that, and you can create long-term partnerships with the kinds of customers you want.


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